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SLO PD Chief, SLO City Council discuss policing tactics and protest under review

Posted at 12:03 AM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 17:37:43-04

San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell gave a report about several recent events to the City Council Tuesday night.

Cantrell talked about where the department falls under the "8 Can't Wait" movement, local policing policy and where the department is in terms of training.

She also answered several questions about recent events -- including why tear gas was used to disperse protesters.

Cantrell says the city has a very good record when it comes to the use of force.

In the past year, 26 uses of force were recorded during more than 60,000 public contacts.

She and Mayor Heidi Harmon agreed it will take the entire community working together to work on a plan that will potentially make some reform to policing the community.

"A community that doesn't trust their police department isn't going to be policed by them. So you've got to have legitimacy and trust with your community," said Chief Cantrell

"I just want to remind everyone in the community that it's literally going to take all of us to do the heavy lifting of this really important and long overdue work," said Mayor Harmon.

The council agreed to hold off on further discussion or any potential action until an incident report has been completed on the recent protests.

This comes as the council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution recommending public health officials declare racism a public health emergency.

After the meeting, the city council released the following statement:

As your elected officials, we would like to address the community regarding recent tragic events, the community response, and our intentions to address past and current systemic racism.

We recognize that the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are reflective of ongoing injustices. We are seeing the nation mourn along with the Black community as we reflect on the tragic losses of life due to racism. We personally are feeling great sadness as we witness the sadness, despair, and anger that our Black community is feeling. To the Black members of our community, we are here for you and will support you. We are beginning to understand that white privilege is based on centuries of racism, inequity, and oppression. This council commits to partner with the Black community, to listen, to learn, and to follow their lead to make the changes that must be made. Black Lives Matter.

We are fortunate to have a community with compassion and a desire to change. Thank you to the thousands of people who have come together peacefully to protest, rally, march, write letters, lead discussions, and speak out against the violence of racism. Thank you to the students and youth who bring extreme passion and leadership to move us forward. We know you will continue to ask the hard questions and keep us accountable. Thank you for demanding that we do better and be better.

Many have questions about specific actions during the protests on June 1 and broader questions about the police department’s overall policies and procedures. We also have questions and want to know more. When Chief Cantrell joined this community four years ago, she and her team collaborated with many community partners rooted in different races, ethnicities, and religions, engaging the community as a whole and cultivating inclusion. We have confidence that our police chief and the department are committed to a collaborative process of review and change.

We are grateful for our community partners who always step up and share in the work, holding each other accountable but never leaving the conversation: Cal Poly, Cuesta College, San Luis Coastal Unified School District, the SLO Chamber of Commerce, Downtown SLO, service groups and so many more. We humbly acknowledge our circle has not been open enough and gratefully welcome more partners to the table. We will be starting a diversity taskforce to bring our partners together to create a more welcoming, just, and inclusive community. As a council, we are committed to economic and community recovery that is grounded in equity.

In these past few months, we have seen our dedicated city staff step up and help the community come together, stay safe and plan for moving forward. The rallies, marches, emails, and calls for change have moved our entire team; we know we need to look at everything we do to be more inclusive. Together, we are committed to the success of our city.

Thank you for trusting local government; we join with you in believing in democracy. We are truly humbled and grateful to serve.